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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/23/17 Trump goes on the attack

Guests: Jennifer Rubin, Annie Karni

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 23, 2017

Guest: Jennifer Rubin, Annie Karni

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Going nuclear, really.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Trump goes nuclear in his Phoenix speech. The former intel chief worries he`ll go nuclear for real. James Clapper, the last director of national intelligence, said he questioned the president`s fitness to hold the nuclear codes. Really. Senator Bob Corker said just last week that he questions the president`s stability.

Democratic leaders are talking about the president`s, quote, "erratic" behavior, and "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson has written the country needs to question how unstable and divorced from reality this president has become.

Well, the latest cause for concern, the president`s performance in Phoenix last night in front of an amped-up crowd of supporters. Gone was all talk of national healing. Instead, he bashed the Democrats for not backing his wall between us and Mexico and threatened to shut down the government if the wall isn`t funded.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we are building a wall on the southern border, which is absolutely necessary!


TRUMP: Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, we have to close down our government. We`re building that wall.


MATTHEWS: Close down the government. Well, the president suggested he would pardon a political ally, former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt this summer.


TRUMP: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?


TRUMP: So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? That`s what...


TRUMP: I`ll make a prediction. I think he`s going to be just fine, OK?



MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump also went after his predecessor, of course, Barack Obama.


TRUMP: They asked me what about race relations in the United States. Now, I have to say they were pretty bad under Barack Obama. That I can tell you. To the best of my knowledge, when there was a big problem, Barack Obama never said it took place because of radical Islamic terrorists. He never said that, right? He doesn`t have to say.



MATTHEWS: He also took some not so veiled shots at Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona. And he repeatedly attacked the media.


TRUMP: It`s time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in formenting (sic) divisions! And yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage. You see that.

For the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people. And they`re bad people. And I really think they don`t like our country. I really believe that.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president also boasted about his own intelligence, his wealth, his success in office. Let`s watch all that.


TRUMP: I always hear about the elite -- you know, the elite? They`re elite. I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment. And I live in the White House, too, which is really great.

I don`t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months. I really don`t believe it.



MATTHEWS: Well, today, unbelievably, the president was back to talking about healing the country.


TRUMP: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us. We are one people with one home and one great flag.



MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by "Washington Post" opinion writers Jennifer Rubin and Jonathan Capehart and Politico White House reporter Annie Karni.

You know, I -- I think -- separating all this from the man who spoke these words, if you were to just take these words in isolation and say these don`t sound sane.


MATTHEWS: I`m going to kill the United States economy. I`m shut down the government, shut down our currency, basically make us a deadbeat in the world for the first time so that I can get something I`m never going to get. And besides, I said the Mexicans are going to pay for it. So what`s that got to do with the debt ceiling bill? It`s all crazy talk.


MATTHEWS: And then bragging about his -- we know he`s got some money in the bank. We know he lives up in a tower in New York. Why is he bragging about richer than reporters?


MATTHEWS: Nobody says they`re not richer than reporters. So why does he say all this?

RUBIN: He is obviously desperate. I think he must know at some level somewhere that he is failing miserably. He sees the poll numbers because he follows television incessantly...

MATTHEWS: Well, Clapper, James Clapper -- just to interrupt you because this is something up your beat because you`re national security-conscious. That`s your beat. He`s -- Clapper, former head of national security a couple months ago, basically, was head of national security -- he says the guy shouldn`t be near the nuclear codes.

RUBIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s serious business.

RUBIN: It is serious business. And you think about this -- in this war of worlds (ph), was he in control of himself during the North Korea spat or was he out of control? Was that scripted? Did they have -- game-played that out, or was that him acting off the cuff in ways that could possibly provoke the enemy? So this is real. This is what we talked about during the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch James Clapper. I think we ought to -- this is a cold bucket of ice water over everybody`s head, I think, realizing this guy`s talking -- national intelligence director under President Obama -- talking about the ability of this president to deal calmly and sanely with the enormous nuclear responsibilities he holds. Let`s watch.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don`t know when I`ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you questioning his fitness?

CLAPPER: Yes, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a threat to national security, the president?

CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there`s actually very little to stop him.


MATTHEWS: You know, Jonathan, you and I know -- we all know here -- that there was a period in our history where we really did worry about nuclear war. That was the Cuban missile crisis. And at that time, we had a very sane couple of people on our side, the two Kennedy brothers, and we had Khrushchev, who, whatever evils he had done with regard to Hungary in `54 and -- `56, rather, he was sane. And in the end, they cut a deal with Turkish missiles and all that, and they sat down and calmly dealt with it as statesmen.

I don`t think we`ve got two people like that right now, him and Kim Jong- Un.


MATTHEWS: They begin this thing like it`s all personal, it`s something to do with ego and hand size and haircuts and weirdnesses.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. You know it`s all true.

CAPEHART: No, no. It is all true. And what we`re also dealing with are two very insecure leaders. That is the word that was missing in the discussion that you and Jennifer were having before.

This is why the president keeps bringing up his wealth, where he lives and he`s richer -- he`s wealthier than reporters, that he went to the best schools, even though he said the word "forment." You can call me elitist for pointing that out. But he`s president of the United States and he`s gone to the best schools and has the best words and all of that other stuff.

Look, what we`re dealing with right now is a problematic president, an irrational president, and we`re depending on the military, we are depending on generals to prevent what DNI Clapper is most worried about. We`re dependent upon General Mattis, the secretary of defense, General Kelly, the White House chief of staff, General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to keep the president of the United States from turning the nuclear codes into a weapon in a fit of pique, as he pointed out.

MATTHEWS: So you`re saying that they are right in not enforcing the chain of command. When the time comes, they shouldn`t salute.

CAPEHART: Right, and...

MATTHEWS: Are you saying that, Jonathan, they should not salute this president if he tries to go nuclear?

CAPEHART: Personally, yes. Also, what they would -- if they were to do that, it would be illegal. When the president makes an order, especially when it comes to the nuclear codes, that is a command. And if anyone in that chain of command does not follow that, they`re breaking the law. But to my mind -- yes, they`re breaking the law...


MATTHEWS: ... call that small potatoes...


CAPEHART: Yes, but it`s the most patriotic that they could ever do.

MATTHEWS: I think that would be (INAUDIBLE) perhaps useful civil disobedience at that point.


ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: I`m the only non-columnist here, so I`m not going to weigh...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s just talk about...


MATTHEWS: I can handle this. When you have James Clapper, the former head of DNI -- just a few months ago, he was head if national -- national intelligence -- you have Bob Corker, a very sane guy from Tennessee, you`ve got Democratic leaders on background, you`ve got Gene Robinson, you guys` colleague, is certainly a sane, grown-up fellow -- they`re all talking in terms of not outward nuttiness but (INAUDIBLE) words like stability, fitness to deal with -- erratic behavior. It`s almost like Captain Queeg kind of stuff, you know, the "Mutiny on the Bounty" -- mutiny -- the "Cain Mutiny" stuff, where the guy`s talking about frozen strawberries instead of keeping the ship upright.

KARNI: And it`s all related, him bragging to reporters that he makes more money than us and him elevating Kim Jong-un. It`s -- he doesn`t realize on some level that he`s the president of the United States, that him responding the way he did last week to North Korea is elevating them, that him -- that he doesn`t need to pick these fights. He`s at the top. It seems like something in him still doesn`t understand...

MATTHEWS: We`ll get back to you in a minute.

KARNI: ... what position he`s in.

MATTHEWS: Also last night, President Trump took particular issue with the reaction to his comments after the violence in Charlottesville. He said the media unfairly reported on what he had said. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: They don`t report the facts, just like they don`t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists and the KKK!


TRUMP: So here`s what I said, really fast. Here`s what I said on Saturday. "We`re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia." This is me speaking. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence." That`s me speaking on Saturday right after the event.

I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let`s see. Yes. KKK. We have KKK. I got them all.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president left out a few juicy parts of what he said after Charlottesville, including when he blamed both sides for the violence and said there were very fine people marching with those neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Didn`t tick that one off his list and papers there.

RUBIN: Man, this really is crazy stuff. First of all, you know...

MATTHEWS: Who`s he talking to?

RUBIN: I guess himself, to his critics, to his Breitbart buddies. I`m not quite sure, and I don`t know that he is. But this is, like, really kind of crazy behavior. You`re right, this is the strawberries in the mess room on the -- the...

MATTHEWS: "Cain Mutiny."

RUBIN: ... Mutiny, yes.

CAPEHART: And he`s -- well, look, he`s -- he`s -- he`s -- Steve Bannon is no longer in the White House, but Steve Bannon is all over...

MATTHEWS: The spirit of Bannon.

CAPEHART: Right, is all over those comments. To my ear, he is talking to white nationalists. One clip that you did not show was when he said, They`re trying to take our history, they`re trying to take our culture.

MATTHEWS: I know. We`ll get to that in the show tonight.

CAPEHART: Oh, good, because that to me was, like, the most alarming thing that he said. He`s complaining about the media not reporting what he said about bigots and white supremacy, and I got the KKK, and yet in the same speech, he is not just dog whistling, he`s got the bullhorn out.

I mean, this guy -- he ceded his moral authority as president of the United States when he did what he did on Tuesday. He didn`t talk about what he did on Tuesday, which was so unbelievably reprehensible for a person who`s supposed to bring together the entire country, and yet he`s still playing to the cheap seats in the Republican (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Yes, he brought a general in to be his hall monitor. Let`s face it, Kelly`s there for that reason. Kelly`s been very good in the role of hall monitor. He decides who goes in to see the president. But he say what goes in to see the president`s head. He isn`t talking about what goes into the president`s head. It seems to me he has to watch, in that hang down your head image he does all the time, he`s got to stand there during the speech. That`s really corporal punishment.

KARNI: Well one thing...

MATTHEWS: He`s got to stand there and go like this.


KARNI: ... one thing that struck me about the speech last night is Trump called him up. He said, John Kelly, get up here. John Kelly never appeared. I mean, I think he`s smart enough to know he doesn`t...

MATTHEWS: How much can a chief of staff do to correct the behavior of the president? I mean, we`ve had this stuff with Leon Panetta. You can`t keep Bill Clinton away from the you know what, the problem. There are certain limits to what you can keep a guy from doing.

KARNI: He can limit the information flow. He can limit the number of people that come in and out of the Oval Office. He can`t limit what Trump does on his own. And he -- the principal is the principal. He can`t...


MATTHEWS: Well, who wrote these speeches? I`ll go back to you, Jennifer. Can he stop the speeches? Somebody wrote that thing last night. Somebody gave him all those papers to read.

KARNI: Most of what he said was not on the paper.


RUBIN: Yes, I think those were the excerpts of his previous speech. I think that is him talking off the cuff. You can tell when he`s on message because he reads very woodenly and it actually sounds somewhat coherent, although boring. This was not boring. This was Trump talking off the cuff.


RUBIN: But listen, the only card thing -- the only card that Kelly really has to play, and he has to play it at the right time because he can only play it once, and that is the threat to resign. He and the others have to save that...


MATTHEWS: Jennifer Rubin, you`re a bit to my right on foreign policy, but let me ask you a question, OK? Far to my right. Let me put this question to you. Do you think the president is stable?


MATTHEWS: Jonathan.


MATTHEWS: You`re a straight reporter. All you can is, Some people think he isn`t.


MATTHEWS: ... Jonathan Capehart and Annie Karni, who`s a straight reporter.

Coming up, President Trump triggers a civil war in the GOP. He attacked his own party last night in Arizona. And tonight, there are new reports the president has privately berated GOP senators over the Russia sanctions and also legislation designed to protect special counsel Mueller. He doesn`t want Mueller protected by the Congress from him!

Plus, the president blames "weak, weak" people for allowing the removal of Confederate statues saying, They`re trying to take away our culture. We`re going to get to that with presidential historian Jon Meacham, who`s from the South, who says that those who chose to fight the union shouldn`t be venerated.

And in an exclusive excerpt from her new book, Hillary Clinton talks about Trump looming behind her in the second presidential -- we all wonder about that one. She wonders should she have called Trump out for being a creep.

Well, finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He`s not going to like this.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is good news. Former FBI director James Comey has landed a position at Howard University. The historically black college announced that Comey will be the keynote speaker at the school`s opening convocation on September 22nd this year. He will also conduct five lectures during the academic year. Comey has not spoken publicly since his June testimony on Capitol Hill in which he was questioned about the events surrounding his abrupt firing by President Trump.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the festering wound that is President Trump`s relationship with the Republican Party burst open last night as Trump opaquely badgered Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain. First he went after Senator McCain, never mentioning him by name but instead referring to his decision to vote against the repeal of "Obama care."


TRUMP: "Obama care" is a disaster! And think, think, we were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace! One vote away! One, one vote, one vote away.


MATTHEWS: Well, then the president took a veiled shot at Senator Flake, also of Arizona. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who`s weak on borders, weak on crime! So I won`t talk about him!


TRUMP: Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is!


MATTHEWS: Well, this morning, however, he attacked Flake by name, tweeting, "Phoenix crowd last night was amazing, a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime and border." Well, President Trump`s list of legislative accomplishments is very short, of course. In his recent remarks risk complicating his agenda on Capitol Hill, don`t you think? That list includes big-ticket items like approving measures to prevent a government shutdown, raising the debt ceiling and rewriting the tax code. Well, that agenda is threatened by an increasingly tense relationship with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.

And just yesterday, The New York Times reported that these two men have not spoken since Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly and berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match. This is The New York Times reports. Additionally, according to sources, Mr. McConnell privately expressed uncertainty the President, "will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises." Well, today Senator McConnell did not deny that report. But says he is in regular contact with the President to discuss shared goals.

For more, I`m joined by Noelle Nikpour, Republican Fundraiser and author of Branding America, and Chris Buskirk, Editor and Publisher of the online journal American Greatness and the author of the American Greatness, How A Conservative Inc. Missed the 2016 Election. First of all, Noelle and then Chris and back and forth on this as much you can. I am trying to understand the nature of the relationship between Trump, who`s sort of an unusual Republican and Mitch McConnell who`s a classic Republican and their difficulty in getting something done, which seems to be getting worse in terms of personal relations, Noelle first.

NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN FUNDRAISER: You know, this is absolutely such a difficult spot for someone like me, a Republican to be. And I mean, Chris, think about this, which way do I go? Which way is a win? You`ve got President Trump, a Republican, you`ve got long time, Mitch McConnell. It`s a war for all of us out here, and it`s a no-win war. And let me to bring up one fact that, you know, it`s really sad because I`m not sure that Donald Trump is really loyal to anybody. But do you remember back when, you know, Obama was President and we -- Scalia had died and we had the opening with the Supreme Court? Do you know it was Mitch McConnell that says let`s postpone these hearings until after the Presidential election, and took a gamble? And the reason we have, you know, one of our big victories, which is Neil Gorsuch, is because of Mitch McConnell. And frankly, Mitch McConnell, he deserves better.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chris Buskirk on that. Chris, how do you see this fight? Whose fault is it?

CHRIS BUSKIRK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, well, I think that this is -- that this fight has been going on for a long time. I mean, Donald Trump didn`t start it. He`s an expression of a fight that`s been going on inside the GOP, at least for 10 or 15 years or which -- what`s the heart and soul of the party. Which way are we going to go? And you know, what I see more and more, is not so much an ideological division, though, it`s true that there are -- that there are serious ideological stakes on the table. But really, there is this debate, there is this division between what we would call country-class Republicans, meaning just voters, normal voters, and ruling-class Republicans, which way is it going to be?

And if you looked at the -- or heard the audio from last night, here in Phoenix. You saw that Donald Trump had a very enthusiastic crowd. The idea that a Mitch McConnell or even in this State, a John McCain or a Jeff Flake would get that kind of a crowd or that kind of response, it`s just unthinkable. And so, you pick -- you pick these two sides together and say, which is it going to be? Is it going to be the voters and the President? Or is it going to be the neo conservatives and the -- and the incumbent Republicans in the House? Who`s going to do something?

MATTHEWS: Good question, because they have to do it together. The news tonight, POLITICO is now reporting tonight that President Trump called up GOP Senators to vent his frustration over Russia-related issues. According to people familiar with the calls, POLITICO reports the President called Senator Bob Corker and, "Expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker that it wasn`t good policy. He argued the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his Presidency." Fair enough.

President Trump, this is the one I`m interested, also called up North Carolina Republican, Thom Tillis to complain about a bill he was writing, that would protect Robert Mueller from being fired. POLITICO reports, "Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn`t want it to pass." Well, let me get back to Noelle and also then to Chris. It seems to me, that this is not about ideology, as you both suggesting. It is maybe about class. But here is Trump trying to protect himself, from an investigation by Bob Mueller by making sure that he does have the potential to get rid of -- get rid of Mueller if he gets -- if he basically goes off again over the rails and starts going after his personal finances as Trump sees it, going across his own red line.

This legislation pushed by Thom Tillis of North Carolina with Chris Coons of Delaware would kill the President`s chance to fire Mueller. This is a real difference of interest. But Trump doesn`t want to be investigated, you know, like an audit of everything he`s ever done, and everything he might have done. And the Republican Party is saying, "Well, we`d like to look clean on this." You know, there is a difference of interest here. Go ahead, Noelle.

NIKPOUR: Yes. And, you know, this is really -- this is a very big catch- 22. Because, we want to focus on things that we can get done and we were not get anything done, and we need to unite. And that`s one of the things that the Democrats have over the Republicans, is whether we agree with our policies or not.

MATTHEWS: What are you talking about? You`re not answering my question.

NIKPOUR: They are united

MATTHEWS: No. The question is should the Republican Party be the good government party making sure that Robert Mueller has a clean -- a free hand in investigating the President, or should they tie his hands a bit to give the President a break here, a partisan break? What is the -- what is the right thing for the Republican leadership to do? Help Trump, or help the prosecutor? Where should their loyalty lie?

NIKPOUR: They need -- they -- the loyalty needs to -- needs to lie in good government. And that`s not to help Trump. That`s to do the right thing, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think, Chris? Do you agree with that? That they should be helping good government if they -- as they seem, or helping the President.

BUSKIRK: Yes -- no, Chris, we -- look, we have a system in this country laid down for good government. If the Congress decides that the President has done something wrong and it rises to a certain level, there is a constitutional means to deal with that. And that`s -- obviously, that`s impeachment. We know how that works. The idea that a Republican Senator like Thom Tillis would -- who would be wasting his time on legislation like this when we don`t have a budget, we haven`t repealed ObamaCare, we haven`t done anything about the debt ceiling. You know, on and on, we haven`t done anything about tax reform. This is what he wants to be known for? I mean, this is the type of cowardice in politics that grinds these things to a halt.

And Chris, you know that history of these things, better than I do. I mean, if you look back at what happened to the Democrats in the late 70s, the Democrats tore themselves up. And in 1980, 1979 and `80, you saw Ted Kennedy, mounting a fairly serious challenge against Jimmy Carter. The Republicans in Congress need to be very cautious and learn their history. They need to accomplish something for voters. They need to do something that is not a Washington, D.C. centric policy, and do something that`s going to do -- that`s going to address the kitchen table of issues that people actually vote on.

MATTHEWS: You know, I can see a real division here. Thank you, Noelle Nikpour, and thank you, Chris Buskirk. I think you pointed out here, clarified the issue. There is a difference of political anxious right now between the Republican Congress as they see their interests and Trump as he sees his, which is, of course, self-protection at this point.

Up next, once again, President Trump sets up a false equivalent saying the Confederate statues are coming down today. But that soon -- but soon (INAUDIBLE) this will be going after Teddy Roosevelt. I don`t think we`re going after Teddy Roosevelt. Does anybody really think that? This is HARDBALL where the action is.



TRUMP: It`s time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions. And yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump last night accusing the media, of course, of attempting to take away the country`s heritage. He also repeated his claim that people are trying to take down statues of figures like George Washington. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: George Washington, please don`t take his statue down, please, please. Does anybody want George Washington statue?


TRUMP: No, is that sad? Is that all sad? To Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt, I see they want to take Teddy Roosevelt`s down too. They`re trying to figure out why, they don`t know. They`re trying to take away our culture. They`re trying to take away our history, and our weak leaders, they do it overnight.


MATTHEWS: Well, the violence in Charlottesville reignited calls for cities to remove Confederate statues, of course. And today, Charlottesville covered up their statue of Robert E. Lee. There, they are putting a shroud over the General. But Presidential Historian, Jon Meacham, argues that you can`t conflate our countries founders with someone like Lee who fought against the country. In an opinion piece to New York Times he wrote, "The answer to Mr. Trump`s question begins with a straightforward test. Was the person to whom a monument is erected on public property devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government. By definition, the Confederate hierarchy fails that test. And those who took up arms against the Union were explicitly attempting to stop the American odyssey."

Meacham points out that "Monuments in public places of veneration to those who believed it their duty to fight the Union have no place in the Union of the 21st century, a view of with which Lee himself might have agreed." "I think it wiser," Lee wrote in 1866, just after the war, "not to keep open the sores of war." That was Robert E Lee, writing. He -- Meacham`s uses an example of the Tennessee Capitol bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early KKK leader and Confederate General who ordered his troops to massacre black soldiers, writing, "We need not contort ourselves to find Forrest wanting as an object of veneration. He was condemned for outrages and atrocities in his own time."

I`m joined now by Presidential Historian Jon Meacham. Jon, I love to hear a voice from the South talk about this, because I think, I did go to Chapel Hill for a year. I did understand the feeling and it was so complex, some of it. You know, the last -- the sign off on the local T.V. station was a very slow rendering of Dixie. I got it. It`s about loss. It`s about loss, a regional loss. It wasn`t about, at least at that point, about slavery. I get a sense that he talked about the building on campus at Chapel Hill, where they house the Confederate -- or the Union soldier`s horses during the war down there. So, there`s a lot of pain, a lot of you know, sadness. We`re talking here about celebration, celebration. What place does it have in our current environment, celebration of Southern Generals?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Right. And I -- and I would draw a distinction between celebration and commemoration. I think that you can commemorate the past. We should commemorate the past without mindlessly exalting figures who, are at best, complex, and at worst, simply not worthy of a veneration.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this thing that Trump is trying to trump up here. And I think he is trumping it up, literally. Nobody is going after Teddy Roosevelt, and the idea of going after slave owners, you`d have to basically take away our history because the first six Presidents here or so had slaves. You`d have to go after people like Washington, and of course, all the Southern guys, all that -- the ones who have followed him, Madison, and of course, Monroe and the rest. And it`s (INAUDIBLE) Old Hickory because of his Indian fighting and killing. Where do we stop? Where do we stop, and saying that we`re going to recognize our history, accept it for what it was, and move on? And when are we going to say, no, someone has to be de-celebrated, taken away from our site.

MEACHAM: Right. Well, the test -- I have wrestled this for a long time. As you say, I grew up in -- I grew up on a civil war battlefield. I`ve written biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. So, this is not new territory for me. My sense is, you draw the line at public veneration with those who were ultimately devoted to the journey toward a more perfect Union, versus those who wanted to end that journey. And the Confederate hierarchy was explicitly about ending that journey and beginning their own vulcanized country, with a different understanding of human liberty.

And we can argue for the -- and talk for the rest of the year about a sense of tragedy, a sense of southern identity, and the fact that many -- most Confederate soldiers didn`t own slaves, any number of things, we can -- we can talk, and it`s fascinating, and it`s our story. It`s what Shelby Foot called "The crossroads of our being." But we`re in the 21st century. This is public property. And it seems to me that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, James Madison, they are worthy of being both commemorated and celebrated because they were devoted to a project that ultimately led -- it took too long, it took too much bled shed, but it ultimately led to the great achievements of 1964 and 1965, and that wouldn`t have been possible, most likely, if we had stopped the experiment in 1865.

MATTHEWS: John Meacham, you`re great and it`s good to have you on and it`s great to hear your voice and I respect it a lot.

MEACHAM: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Hillary Clinton says, her skin crawled during that segment -- look at this scene during that president -- second presidential debate with Donald Trump. Remember, he loomed up behind her, on the stage? We know how she responded. She chose option A, she said, well, what was her option B? What was she thinking about doing and what she think now about that weird -- look at him there, looming behind her. You`re watching HARDBALL.



I thought it was something coming before, as President Trump has spent plenty of time going after his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, of course, even bashing her again last night during his rally in Phoenix. But now, Secretary Clinton is telling her side in her upcoming book entitled "What Happened". I think it`s "What Happened". Like a question.

An audio excerpt obtained exclusively by "MORNING JOE", Clinton talks about that memorable moment during the second presidential debate when Trump paced behind her, repeatedly hovering over her as she tried to answer questions. She recounts him actually looming behind her, saying she struggled to keep her composure.

Let`s listen to Hillary Clinton herself in the tape recording.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump was looming behind me. Two days before the world heard him brag about groping women. Now we were on a small stage, and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces.

It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.


MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton goes on to pose a rhetorical question for readers. Here she goes.


CLINTON: Well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren`t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, back up, you creep, get away from me, I know you love to intimidate women, but you can`t intimidate me, so back up?


MATTHEWS: Well, ultimately, of course, she didn`t confront Trump that way. She explains why.


CLINTON: Maybe I have over learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in our roundtable for this. Tamara Keith is White House correspondent for NPR and host of the NPR politics podcast. Niall Stanage is White House columnist for "The Hill", and Karen Attiah is global opinion editor for "The Washington Post".

So, let me go right through the line there. What is your view of Hillary`s explanation of what happened and her concern about it and her second thoughts?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: It really reads like, well, I guess she reads it, you know, like you get in an argument with somebody and then you think of all the things you would have said after they`ve talked away.


KEITH: And this is sort of her reflecting on that moment and thinking about all the things she could have said or could have done. You know, she had a similar moment with the Lazio debate when she was running for Senate in the year 2000. In that case, it worked out kind of well for her. She - - you know, it was a pivotal moment in the campaign. This --


MATTHEWS: -- receive his papers, (INAUDIBLE) something to her, some tax agreement.

KEITH: And he moved into her space.

MATTHEWS: And he broke the space agreement. And she benefited from his awful behavior.

KEITH: Right. But this time it did -- it just didn`t even register. I mean, you have to remember, this was a debate where Donald Trump and his team had brought women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of all kinds of terrible things. This was a weird debate.

MATTHEWS: We were going to get to see the whole movement -- we`re watching stills for some reason. I think we should see the tape of him walking across the set, standing behind her and like sort of looming there. I hope we`ve got that tape.

Go ahead.


MATTHEWS: There he is. He`s coming over and he -- look, he`s just coming over. It is creepy, not to overuse that term. Look at him. He`s like the phantom in the old comic books. What`s the phantom doing there?

STANAGE: It is a really weird moment, Chris. The other thing I thought is it`s kind of remarkable to hear Hillary Clinton talk about this in her own voice. We`re not used to that voice from Hillary Clinton. She`s normally excessively cautious if anything. There was a lot of blood and guts there and a lot less of the impassive iron lady we sometimes hear and see.


KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINION EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, for her to talk about this right now, it does bring back the memories of what it was like as a woman to watch Donald Trump do this to Hillary Clinton. So many of us have had stories of men stalking us on the street, invading our personal space. And I think really and truly, to put this in context, remember, this is two days after the "Access Hollywood" take place came out when he was bragging about grabbing women.


ATTIAH: And then in November, all of this happening. We hear about the take place. We see how he treated Hillary Clinton and yet again, so many white women, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump anyway. If I were Hillary Clinton right now and I was going on the book tour, I would like to have a bit of a listening tour, asking women why after --


MATTHEWS: Karen, I`m sorry. Your last is name is Attiah. As I was working on a pronunciation, I got focused on it.

Let me ask you about this. You start, we go the other way. Do you believe that she`s being honest about saying her skin crawled? I`m in a tense debate for the presidency and I`m thinking about my next thoughts and a lot of things, I don`t like this guy.

I wouldn`t -- well, my attitude might be -- screw this guy, he`s a jackass to stand behind me like this, or worse. I don`t like him for doing, I wouldn`t feel uncomfortable with this clown. I`d be mad at him.


MATTHEWS: Do you really think she was upset by his presence and felt harassed? I don`t know.

ATTIAH: I believe her.


ATTIAH: I believe when she says that. Again --

MATTHEWS: She`s a pretty tough person. She`s been around people that can be awful. I thought she would be tougher. I don`t know. I don`t know. She`s speaking her mind.

STANAGE: I think she is a tough person, but I do take her at her word and I think there is a real parallel being drawn here by her and other women who might have experienced this kind of thing in other professional circumstances. In the moment not really knowing exactly what the right way to react is.

MATTHEWS: Well, as a guy why would you do if another guy did that to you? Just talking in another gender.

STANAGE: I think I`ve felt --

MATTHEWS: Would you turn around and do what W did to Gore at that time, made an ass out of him by going, what are you, crazy, walking into my space? He destroyed Gore with that stuff.

STANAGE: He did. He did it by using humor. He made --

MATTHEWS: No, he just looked at the guy what a douche bag you are to do something like that.

STANAGE: But he made Gore appear weird.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he did. Here he is. Look, he does this. I`m not saying - - yes.

STANAGE: Yes, he`s dismissive.

MATTHEWS: Look, it`s easy to say afterwards. Look, I`ve never done anything like a presidential debate. But Hillary Clinton has chosen to highlight this now. Why do you think? To bring this particular story to public discussion like we`re doing here.

KEITH: They`re trying to sell a book.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you cold?


KEITH: No, I mean, when you`re releasing excerpts of a book, you want to put something out there that is going to make people want to buy it. Her past books have sold rather well --

MATTHEWS: She`s going to sell this --


KEITH: But they`ve all been very dry recitations.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hope.

KEITH: This will show more emotions.

MATTHEWS: You know what I want from all politicians. I want the book like Katharine Graham wrote years ago, over at "Washington Post", where she told an honest story about her marriages, difficult things in her life. So true, so overwhelming. It not only got awards but my God, what a strong person.

It wasn`t something just to get three the month with. Or to make it -- anyway, It`s very easy to say that. Those kind of books are hard to write.

Anyway, speaking of Hillary Clinton or the Clintons, Hillary Clinton`s daughter Chelsea Clinton publicly defended a member of the Trump family today after "The Daily Caller" published an article entitled "It`s high time Barron Trump starts dressing like he`s in the White House." Well, Chelsea Clinton defended the president`s 11-year-old son, tweeting: It`s high time the media and everyone leave Barron Trump alone and let him have the private child he deserves.

I did know that.

KEITH: Yes, children, minor children --

MATTHEWS: Score one for Chelsea. What do you think?

STANAGE: Absolutely. I think Chelsea Clinton knows what she`s talking about here. She`s the first one, I think, to bear the brunt of the modern media and partisan environment as a child in the White House.

ATTIAH: Good on Chelsea. He`s an 11-year-old kid. If anything, it was refreshing seeing a kid being a kid, given all the talk about the other children. I think perhaps "The Daily Caller" just had nothing better to do.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think you leave other family members alone, and unless Melania is talking politics, leave her alone.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us and up next, they`re going to tell me more of that I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Glenn Simpson, he`s a key figure behind the so- called Trump dossier, spoke behind closed doors to investigators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Well, tonight, the chairman of that committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, told a town hall out in Iowa that the Judiciary Committee plans to hold a vote on whether to release the full transcript of that all-day interview. That will be interesting to everybody.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Tamara, tell me something I don`t know.

KEITH: So, about two weeks ago, President Trump said he was declaring an emergency on the opioid crisis. Since then, crickets. Checked in with the White House, they say it`s undergoing an expedited legal review. I asked who was doing the legal review. We have nothing more for you.

MATTHEWS: Boy, that is so old-style government politics. Let`s have another commission, another review, and get nothing done.

STANAGE: A group of moderate Republicans in the House are working on their own immigration plan. At its core, it`s pretty simple. Funds support the border wall, but on the condition of legislation that would permanently protect the position of the so-called DREAMers.

MATTHEWS: Who`s coming up with that compromise?

STANAGE: Well, if I tell you that, my sources --

MATTHEWS: Are they Democrats? Are they Democratic?

STANAGE: No, they`re centrist Republicans --

MATTHEWS: So Republicans are saying, if you can get DACA continued, helping the young people abroad here from their parent who is came in here illegally, if you can get them protected, then they`ll pay for the wall?

STANAGE: A group of moderate Republicans who come from districts that have quite high numbers of minority voters.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to tell you something, it`s a non -- no Democrat is going to vote for that wall.

Go ahead.

ATTIAH: I`ll go a little global in scope.

MATTHEWS: That`s not something you can do with reconciliation. You got to pass that with 60 votes. Yes?

ATTIAH: Looks like some people in Germany are trying to get high of the Trump supply, if you`ve heard about the $45,000 worth of Trump-shaped ecstasy pills that were busted by German authorities.

MATTHEWS: What`s the effect of ecstasy? Is it a high?

ATTIAH: It makes you feel good. Imagine, Trump making people feel good in Germany. This is also linked --

MATTHEWS: It must be a short-term effect?

ATTIAH: Well, here in the U.S., I mean, speaking of getting high and enjoying Trump, there`s a beer brewery in Minnesota. They`re launching a new beach-flavored beer called Impeach Trump.

MATTHEWS: Oh my God.

ATTIAH: A sour peach-flavored --

MATTHEWS: Did you see Conan O`Brien last night? Guess who was leading the impeach Trump calls last night in Phoenix? Mike Pence.

Anyway, thank you, Tamara Keith, Niall Stanage and Karen Attiah.

We`ll be right back with Trump watch.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017.

If we have to close down our government, we are building that wall.

Whatever the president`s personal stability or lack of it, there`s something insane about what he said last night in Phoenix. He said he is ready to bring down the U.S. government, the government he`s pledged to lead. Does this president know the sequences about failure by the American government to pay its bills? Does he know what the world would look like if this country was no longer good for its signature, that we`d be left standing before the world as a global deadbeat?

Would Trump do this to get his wall built? Would he play hostage with America`s worldwide credit, destroy the stature of the American dollar? Would he play chicken with the U.S. Congress in order to get it to pay for his wall, between here and Mexico? Would he stick to that demand, even as the financial life drains out of our government, and our country itself? Would he let America bleed, so that he could make a point about his wall?

I`m sorry, did we forget something? Why would he hold the government hostage if the wall, as he said, was going to be paid for by Mexico? If Mexico is actually going to pay for the wall, why does he need the U.S. Congress to approve the expenditure? Ever think about that?

Or am I missing something more profound? That this president doesn`t mean the word he says. But isn`t that appoint I made last night before his tirade in Phoenix, when he once again proved our suspicions true, that Donald Trump speaks not for the meaning of his words but simply for the crowd reaction.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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